GuidesSurveysWhat is an NPS detractor?

What is an NPS detractor?

Last updated

14 May 2023

Reviewed by

Tanya Williams

Business owners are often focused on growth and improving their services and products to make their customers happy. In this quest to acquire new customers, businesses tend to neglect existing customers who may be dissatisfied with their products or services. Their dissatisfaction may be detrimental to your brand. 

In the business world, no one likes to talk about detractors. Having detractors in a business is almost unavoidable. The best way to deal with them is to understand and address their concerns, as they might become your biggest promoters. 

Let’s explore who detractors are and how to deal with them and then convert them into promoters of your brand.

What is an NPS detractor?

A net promoter score (NPS) detractor is an unhappy customer who rated their experience with your company between 0 to 6. They were likely to be disappointed by your company's product or service. As a result, these customers are more inclined to share negative comments about their experience and not likely to recommend your brand to anyone. 

Detractors play a vital role in the calculation of a brand's NPS. Net promoter score is a business metric used to determine customer satisfaction rates. It helps a business improve its customer support resulting in increased customer loyalty. NPS predicts business growth. For instance, when it’s high, it shows that the company has a healthy relationship with the customers, and they’re likely to fuel word of mouth and grow your customer base. 

NPS is calculated based on customers' scores when responding to the survey question, "On a scale of 0–10, would you recommend our brand to a colleague or friend?". 

Measuring your brand's NPS is an ongoing process and should be sent within the first month after a customer interacts with your company. The best time to send an NPS survey is after the following:

  • A free trial

  • The point of purchase

NPS promoters vs. detractors vs. passives

The best way to identify customers of each segment is to send out an NPS feedback survey. An NPS survey will ask the question, and customers will provide a score between 0 to 10 based on their experience and perception of your brand. Depending on the score, customers are then categorized into promoter, passive, or detractor.

NPS promoters

They give a score of 9–10. These are the most enthusiastic customers, likely to act as brand ambassadors and increase referral flows. Promoters are loyal customers who recommend your product to their colleagues or friends when an opportunity arises. 

NPS passives

They give a score of 7 or 8. Although they’re satisfied customers, they’re unenthusiastic and vulnerable to your competitors' offerings, such as better customer experience or prices. Passives neither hate nor love your brand. 

NPS detractors

They give a score of 0–6. This means they had a negative experience either in the shopping stage, delivery, or quality of your products. In the age of social media, people can share their experiences with your brand online. Online reviews have immense power to sway potential shoppers towards or away from purchasing your product. 

Detractors will find an alternative to your service since they have no problem switching to your competitors. 

How do you respond to NPS detractors?

Here’s how to deal with NPS detractors:

  1. Determine if they have a valid point.

  2. Don’t let their negative thoughts overcome you. 

  3. Identify the reasons behind the bad experience. 

  4. Establish effective communication. Do personalized follow-ups via email or phone call and respond as soon as possible to their issues.

  5. Remember, don’t use bribes such as discounts to respond to NPS detractors. 

  6. Acknowledge that there will always be detractors and that you cannot completely ignore them. 

  7. Instead of fighting a detractor, tell them you need their support to resolve the issue. The worst thing you can do is to become over-defensive. 

  8. Be informed and ready in case the detractor is misinformed, and be their educator.

  9. Train your team to avoid passing blame or dismissing a detractor's feedback.

Turning detractors into promoters

As a business owner, you must strive to turn detractors into promoters due to the following reasons: 

  • They may reduce your profits by affecting sales through negative word of mouth.

  • Detractors damage brand image. Bad word of mouth will hurt your brand.

  • They are a churn risk where clients may stop doing business with the firm for a particular period. 

  • As a result, with bad imagery of your business, new clients will be scared to associate with you. In addition, they could discourage potential customers by giving negative reviews. 

  • They impede the growth and acquisition of a new customer base.

  • Turning a detractor into a promoter might not be complicated with the following strategies. 

Here’s how you can turn detractors into promoters:

1. Encourage feedback and make it easy to get in touch

Even if detractors express their dissatisfaction with your brand, their feedback is vital for business development. To motivate your customers to give feedback, you have to get creative. Here are a few tips:

Make it convenient to give feedback

Consider using a pop-up survey on your website. Ensure that the survey is short so customers do not abandon it mid-way. 

Provide incentives

Customers like incentives. Something like offering a coupon will motivate them to provide instant feedback. 

Use different channels

Using different channels will allow customers to reach out and give feedback. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or the brand's website are all possible channels you can use.

Make it easy for detractors to contact your business

Here are four strategies to make it easier for detractors to reach you easily:

  • Prominently display your contact information, including your address and email. Having a business contact readily available makes it easy to build trust.

  • Make it easy for callers to reach live customer care without having to listen to a boring and extensive recording. 

  • Streamline the information collection system so that customers don’t repeatedly have to provide the same information to numerous representatives.

  • Use live chatbots to help you speed up the process. This is convenient for customers who do not want the hassle of making a phone call or want a fast response.

2. Close the feedback loop

A closed feedback loop is a practice of responding to customer survey feedback to understand their pain points. If a detractor has a reason for their bad review, you, as a business owner, have an opportunity to mend the relationship and follow up with customer feedback

Close the feedback loop by resolving their issue via call or email and letting them know you’ve heard their concerns. Reach out to them directly and address their concerns at the source. The advantage of closing the feedback loop is that it helps resolve issues much faster, provides valuable insights, and lets the detractor know that they’ve been heard. 

3. Respond quickly

After receiving a negative review, try to respond as fast as possible and let the customer know they’ve been heard. Slow response time causes more frustration for customers. Giving swift responses lets the customer know you’re genuinely concerned about their dissatisfaction. 

An automated message like "Thank you for sharing your feedback" or a personalized one works best. Then provide an estimate of how long it will take a real person to address their concerns. 

4. Listen and show empathy

In business, identifying and understanding customers' feelings is crucial in building a meaningful relationship with an NPS detractor. Most of these detractors are reasonable—they’re just frustrated and want to feel acknowledged. 

Empathizing with a detractor involves acknowledging their feelings and concerns. Acknowledging a detractor's complaints is the first step to showing them they’ve been heard and will make them less angry. Here are some tips to show empathy:

  • Speak in a friendly and engaging tone.

  • Listen to their concerns actively and apologize. You may want to consider gifting a coupon or an additional month on their subscription as a token of apology.

  • Once the customer has provided the entire story, confirm and validate that you understand their concerns. 

  • Show genuine interest. During the conversation, be an interested inquirer rather than an examiner. 

  • Provide clear information on your brand's steps to resolve the issue.

  • After resolving the issue, follow up with the customer.

5. Don’t over promise or under deliver

Keeping customers' promises is imperative to retaining their trust. Some companies over promise their customers to gain new clients. However, your brand reputation will suffer if you fail to deliver on those promises. Be sincere and strive your best to be honest with the customer. For instance, give your customer a timeline of how long your business will take to respond to their complaint and fulfill the promise. 

If you cannot deliver within the set time, inform the customer and explain the reason for the delay. It’s preferable to under promise but over deliver, which may turn your detractors into promoters. 

6. Set up a prioritization system

Every customer request should be answered and solved efficiently. However, this isn’t possible when several customer requests are coming in. Such scenarios necessitate a prioritization system. 

A prioritization system will help optimize the support workflow and allow them to handle customer tickets. In addition, it ensures that you prioritize customer requests fairly and base the request queue on the scale of urgency. 

Some of the best practices for prioritizing customer requests are:

  • Adopt a first come, first serve system. This will help the support team attend to customers who sent in their requests early and tackle them in the order they were received.

  • Allow customer to determine their level of urgency by marking their level of immediacy in your contact form. 

  • Respond quickly by letting the customer know their request has been received and someone will address it promptly. 

  • Set up customer support software that automatically analyzes customer data and feedback to determine high-priority requests. 

  • Set up help desks with automation capabilities to prioritize customer tickets based on specific keywords.

7. Learn from your mistakes

Detractors act as a source of valuable insight on ways to improve your customer service and satisfaction rates. Use the opportunity to learn from your past mistakes and make better choices in the future. For instance, leverage the situation and use the insights to improve future products or services. 

Each piece of feedback should be a chance to create better customer experiences and drive growth for your business. 

Can you convert every single detractor?

It’s unrealistic to turn every single detractor into a promoter. Although it’s possible to turn detractors into promoters, you can’t convert every single one of them. No matter the effort you put into converting them, customers will leave if your business model doesn’t match their needs. In addition, detractors may have already researched other alternatives and decided to stop using your services or products.

However, you have a better chance of retaining them as your loyal customers. This should motivate you since you have fewer detractors even though they aren’t your promoters. Moreso, at least you put in the effort and left a positive impression.


What are examples of detractors?

Detractors will complain about your business's services and discourage potential shoppers from interacting with your brand. They may have purchased a service or goods in the past but were dissatisfied.

What will a detractor rate you on an NPS scale of 0 to 10?

Detractors will give a score of 0–6 in an NPS survey. 

How much time do you have to stop a detractor from churning?

Detractors harm the company's reputation, and therefore it’s better to reduce this threat by responding to their concerns as soon as possible.

What does churn in business mean?

It’s defined as the measure of how many customers stop purchasing your product or service.

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